Minister calls for legislation to address imbalance in the food supply chain

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has called for the European Commission to consider the potential value of EU legislation to address the current imbalance between the various actors in the food supply chain.

The relatively weak position of farmers in the food supply chain is a long-standing issue that needs to be definitively addressed, according to the Minister.

Minister Creed was speaking at an informal meeting of agriculture ministers in Bratislava this week, where they discussed the need to strengthen farmers’ position in the food supply chain and dealing with unfair trading practices.

We have been responding to recent market difficulties with short-term measures, which, while helpful, need to be augmented with more medium-term, structural measures.

“Key among these is the need to address the current imbalance between the various actors in the food supply chain, which places farmers in a weak position,” Minister Creed said.

There are three main areas that the ministers agreed needed to be addressed, namely, facilitating further cooperation between all actors in the chain among producers, increasing transparency in the availability of market and pricing information and dealing more effectively with unfair trading practices.

In relation to unfair trading practices, the Minister called in particular for the Commission to consider the potential value of an EU legislative framework.

I think experience in Ireland and elsewhere has shown that voluntary or self-regulatory approaches to dealing with unfair trading practices are of limited value.

“This approach can also lead to wide variations across Member States. I would therefore welcome a more active Commission interest in EU legislation,” Minister Creed said.

Meanwhile, the Minister also pointed out that changes to the legislative framework will have to be accompanied by other measures to improve the sustainability of the food supply chain.

These measures would include initiatives to help farmers to reduce costs, according to the Minister, improve competitiveness and adopt innovative approaches to the management of their enterprises.

Earlier this week, Copa-Cogeca, the EU association for farmers and agri-cooperatives, also called for EU legislation to be introduced to combat unfair trading practices.

Farmers’ incomes across Europe are constantly being squeezed, the Copa-Cogeca Secretary-General, Pekka Pesonen said.

The price the farmer gets often does not even cover his production costs. We need a fair, transparent and functioning food supply chain.

“We believe it is good for farmers, for processors and retailers – and above all for consumers. It is the only way to ensure a sustainable farming sector,” Pesonen said.

Contracts between producers, processors and retailers that are enforced to ensure farmers are given a fair price for their produce and are paid on time would be a way to improve the current situation, the Secretary-General said.